Recently a Science Club did a videoconference with a marine biologist in Georgia to learn more about whales. She focused on Gray’s Reef and whales, particularly the right whale that the students hope to see during a trip to Boston. The biologist showed many slides and movies. She explained complex ideas in very simple terms. She used terms such as “momma and baby” that the students could relate to. She divided the program into several different segments,each with new and indepth information about whales. She constantly asked factual questions about the information she was giving or asked questions as an introduction to a new segment. Even when a student was wrong, she very politely rephrased the answer so it would be correct. She gave several opportunities for the students to ask any questions they had about whales. She was very aware of the class to whom she was presenting. Her ability to tell stories about the whales made the content very memorable to the students.
During the whole videoconference, the longest time in which she did not ask questions was eight minutes during the movie and the slide show. Although the students were interested in the movie and slide slide, their interest was not as high as when she asked them questions or allowed them to ask her questions.
The only part that I felt was weak was when she played whale sounds. I wished she had explained the possible purpose of those sounds so that the students did not just think that they were “weird” sounds.
The students’ questions to her showed that they had heard and understood what she had explained. Most often the students’ questions requested a more indepth explanation of something that she had said.
So what great videoconferences have your had? How could you tell that your students learned as a result of the videoconference?
© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007